A Psalm a Day: Psalm 22

For September 2022, I’m trying to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:

  • What is this Psalm about?
  • What does this Psalm teach about God?
  • How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.

psalm twenty twoHere’s Psalm 22:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
    “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
    since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
    you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
    from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me;
    strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
    open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
    it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.

19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
    You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
    save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will declare your name to my people;
    in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
    Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek the Lord will praise him—
    may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
    will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
    all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
    those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
    declaring to a people yet unborn:
    He has done it!

What is this Psalm about?

Reflecting on Psalm 22 is difficult, as someone who’s been a Christian for a while – it’s hard not to see Jesus (who quoted it on the cross) and his suffering as being in view the whole time. This may well be the primary Christian way of reading this Psalm – but in addition, it is a Psalm of David lamenting suffering and unanswered prayer, as well as balancing honest reality and the worship of the God who holds the future. It is a beautiful Psalm of praise – even if it might not feel quite like modern worship songs!

What does this Psalm teach about God?

In the complaint of forsakenness, we see that God has not forsaken – God is a listening God, a hearing God, and God will communicate, as the rest of the Psalm goes on to say. God can be beseeched – we don’t have to come through any particular form of words or actions, God is a God who can be reached out to. Perhaps, then – Christological interpretation aside – Psalm 22 is fundamentally about worship, and that God is a God to be worshipped. Among other things, Psalm 22 reminds us, for the purpose of worship, that God is enthroned, can be trusted, listens, rescues, delivers, and is righteous.

How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

As well as encouraging Christians to ponder the connections between the cross and this Psalm, Psalm 22 encourages us to worship God regardless of our circumstances. When we feel forsaken, we are invited to praise. When we feel our prayers go unanswered, we are challenged to pray. When we feel like we are the only ones left, we are reminded that ‘future generations will be told about the Lord’. Indeed, verse 30 is ‘fulfilled in your sight’, as we read and enjoy this Psalm today!

A prayer from Psalm 22:

Lord, you are enthroned as the Holy One – take your place in all parts of my life. Lord, I come to you with pain and anger, hurt and hope, and ask that you intervene. Remind us, lord, that your purposes are sure and your ways are good. Amen.

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